The definitive story of Marvel Comics’ greatest villain Doctor Doom does not come in a battle against his greatest rivals the Fantastic Four. His definitive moment comes as he clashes with the devil himself, Mephisto to save the soul of his long cursed mother. To do so Doom, the ruler of Latveria a small European nation, must accept help from the Master of the Mystic Arts Doctor Strange.
The team up between Sorcerer and Monarch takes place in the pages of “Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment” by writer Roger Stern (“Death of Superman”) and artist Mike Mignola (“Hellboy”). The graphic novel was originally published in 1989 but has long been out of print. Marvel has recently reproduced this classic tale and included more stories about Doctor Doom’s quest to save his mother.
Why “Triumph and Torment” is the definitive Doom story is that he is not portrayed as the mustache twirling villain looking to usurp and embarrass his long time enemy Mister Fantastic, leader of the Fantastic Four. This story gets down to the basics of the character and his cruel arrogance. His undertaking to save the soul of his mother displays nobility within the character which Stern also exhibits in the loving adoration Doom receives from his subjects in Latveria.
The story begins with a contest among the world’s greatest mystics. The winner will be crowned the new Sorcerer Supreme of Earth. It is a test that the greatest mystics of all fail, but the champion is the Master of the Mystic Arts, Doctor Strange. In winning the title Strange is obligated to grant the boon to the mystic who was a runner-up in the contest, Doctor Doom.
Strange’s first inclination is to reject Doom as he is a vile dictator and Strange wants no part in advancing Doom’s goals of world domination. But when the real request of Doom is heard Strange acquiesces and the preparation for battle against Mephisto is begun.
Stern skillfully explores the background of these characters. He delves into the origins of both Doctor Stephen Strange a brilliant but arrogant surgeon, the top of his field without any compassion for his fellow man. Victor von Doom a brilliant science student rising from the poverty life of a gypsy, nothing but distain for his fellow man as they are all beneath them. Accidents change their lives and they veer in different directions. Strange finds the compassion he lacked as a surgeon and becomes a force for good, Doom retreats further into himself filling his heart with hatred.
With each character following a different direction from tragedy their opposite viewpoints make for an interesting tandem and the lessons they have learned help them in their battle with Mephisto. If Doom’s egotism and reluctance to accept assistance from others was removed Doom could be the greatest hero the world has ever known, and that is the tragedy of this villain.
The artwork of Mignola evokes a sense of the Middle Ages as the setting has a Faustian feel to it. Mignola’s style of “thin lines, clunky shapes and lots of blacks” plays nicely with the dark arts nature of the graphic novel. The artists sets the tone with a creepy look at Mephisto’s Hell, as it highlights the sinister elements it also provides clarity for the story to enable the words to be more impactful cementing the themes of the narrative.
“Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment” does not make Doctor Doom a tragic or sympathetic figure. It shows why he works so well as a villain to the Marvel Universe. When contrasted to Doctor Strange the outcomes and the choices of Doom are demonstrated. He is a villain with pathos much more complicated than at first glance. Stern and Mignola highlight what has made Doctor Doom so villainous and enduring in comics.